Losing a race, and later winning


Democratic El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke drew suggestions he run for president in 2020, after coming within 2.6 percent of beating Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Red-State Texas Nov. 6.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel couldn’t resist raining on the parade.

“If Beto O’Rourke wants to go and run for president, God bless him, he should put his hat in and make his case,” Emanuel, a former congressman and chief of staff for former President Barack Obama, told MSNBC.

 “But he lost,” Emanuel pointed out. “You don’t usually promote a loser to the top of party and then take a winner and say, ‘We’re going to cut your knees off.’”

In other words, a loser can’t win later?

Actually, there are a bunch of politicians, both nationally and in Texas, who lost one or more races during their career, and still won some big political jobs.

They include, for example, three Texans who lost political races before eventually becoming president.

Democrat Lyndon Johnson lost a special election for a U.S. Senate seat in 1941, but won that seat in 1948 – and went on to be senate majority leader, vice-president, and then president.

Republican George H. W. Bush lost a U.S. Senate race in 1964, won a U.S. House seat in 1966 and 1968, and then lost another try for the U.S. Senate in 1970 -- before being elected vice-president in 1980 and president in 1988.

His Republican son, George W. Bush, lost a race for a West Texas congressional seat in 1978, but was elected governor of Texas in 1994, re-elected in 1998, and won the presidency in 2000 and again in 2004.

Some politicians from other states who later became president had a stumble along the way:

Republican Richard Nixon of California, a member of the House and then the Senate before becoming Dwight Eisenhower’s vice-president for eight years, lost the 1960 presidential race to Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960 – and then lost a governor’s race in California in 1962.

But he was elected president in 1968, and re-elected in 1972 – before resigning in 1974 to avoid impeachment.

Democrat Jimmy Carter lost a race for governor of Georgia in 1966, before winning the governor in 1970. He was a surprise dark-horse victor for president in 1976.

Republican California Gov. Ronald Reagan lost a squeaker race for the GOP presidential nomination in 1976, but won the nomination in 1980. He was elected president (over Democratic incumbent Carter), and re-elected in 1984.

Democrat Barack Obama won a seat in the Illinois state senate in 1996, but then lost a race to unseat four-term incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Bush in 2000. 

 In 2004, he nonetheless mounted a race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, won that and the general election, and four years later was elected president. He was re-elected in 2012.

-- Other Texans who lost statewide races before winning included Democrats U.S. Sen. Ralph W. Yarborough, Gov. Preston Smith, Atty. Gen. Waggoner Carr, Atty. Gen. John L. Hill, and Gov. Dolph Briscoe; and Republican U. S. Sens. John Tower and Phil Gramm.

State Rep. Joe Pickett Resigning for Health Reasons. . . . The popular veteran El Paso Democrat said he learned he had prostrate cancer before the 2017 legislative session, and was being treated for it.

But recently, Pickett said in a statement, “I have learned of additional issues I must address.” Rather than try to continue at a reduced work load, Pickett said he’ll resign Jan. 4 – just four days before the start of the 2019 regular legislative session.

Pickett, 62, first elected to the House in 1994, was unopposed in the general election in 2018. The governor will call a special election to pick a successor.

Over the years, Pickett has chaired several different committees, including Transportation and Environmental Regulation.

Patrick Backs Sen. Cornyn. . . . Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick decided to put to rest speculation that he might run against his fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. 

“I told him months ago that I would be proud to endorse his re-election in 2020,” Patrick said in a press statement Dec. 11, “and today, I am making that endorsement official.”  

Texas Number One – in Death Penalty. . . The Lone Star State leads the nation in executions this year with 13. That’s more than half of the 25 executions in the country.

The death penalty has been steadily declining over the past several years. Only eight states carried out the death penalty in 2018, according to an annual report by the Death Penalty Information Center. 

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